By Richard Thomas
Buffalo Trace Distillery is located in Franklin County, Kentucky, and the site has hosted whiskey-making since 1776. The oldest building on the grounds dates back to 1792, so by American standards, Buffalo Trace is a truly historic distillation site.
Buffalo Trace is also a storied distillery. Once upon a time it went under the name of George T. Stagg, and that name now adorns one of the most rarefied bourbon whiskeys around. The distillery also produces whiskey for other companies. Blanton’s, the whiskey that did more than any other to start the single barrel movement, is a Buffalo Trace product. The main competitor for Stagg in the rarity department, Pappy Van Winkle, is also made at Buffalo Trace.
It isn’t much of an exaggeration to describe the Buffalo Trace Distillery as a cornerstone of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. While the distillery produces many of Kentucky’s finest bourbons, Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the distillery’s mass market and relatively recent product, first introduced in 1999.
Buffalo Trace bourbon is made mostly with corn from Kentucky and Indiana, plus rye and malted barley. Bottles of Buffalo Trace bear no aging statement, but rumor has it the typical bottle has an average age of between seven and nine years. I say “average age” because Buffalo Trace bourbon is blended, with a normal batch drawing from 25 to 30 barrels before chill filtration. The whiskey is 90 proof (45% alcohol), and has a light, golden amber coloring. The bottle is inked rather than labeled, and in such a way as to show off the whiskey’s lovely color. The stopper is plastic and cork.
The whiskey smells of vanilla and maple, with a mild character. The flavor is warm, with brown sugar and honey sweetness, but once again the main feature is just how subdued it is. The finish is long, warm and pleasant, and without even a hint of bite.
Some reviewers label Buffalo Trace as a small batch bourbon, but I think it should be pointed out that even the bourbon’s own label doesn’t make that claim. The characteristics of this bourbon make it ideal for people who want to avoid heavy sweetness, char smoke and/or fire.
The best part about Buffalo Trace bourbon is the price, as a bottle typically retails for $20.